THE SOCIAL LIFE OF BONES: Memory, Violence and Reconciliations in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam

THE SOCIAL LIFE OF BONES: Memory, Violence and Reconciliations in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam

NGO THI THANH TAM (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity)

In 1994, in a railway station a father lost the remains of his son who had died in the first battle of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border war. Since he had illegally transported the bones, he could not ask the authority for help to find it. Few days later after the fruitless search he left not knowing that thebones, abandoned by the thieves, had been found and buried by local residents. While waiting to be claimed by relatives, the bones picked up an incredibly busy social life. The grave was frequented by people who sought healing magic, lottery numbers, consulted about family, social and love problems. Lately, journalists and telepaths were added to the audience since a number of fallen soldiers’ souls wanted to claim the bones. Troubled by the growing crowd around the grave, local authorities decided to get involved. Via a discussion of the social life of the bones, this lecture aims to shed light on the larger politics of memory, violence and reconciliation in post-revolutionary Vietnam.

Co-Sponsors: NYU Departments of Media, Culture, and Communication; Anthropology.

photo credit: Steve McCurry

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